Steve Jobs' Vision Spread To Cars, Auto IndustryBy Michelle Krebs October 6, 2011
Apple co-founder Steve Jobs, who died Wednesday, leaves an imprint on many aspects of our lives, and todays cars are no exception. As Edmunds.coms technology editor Doug Newcomb points out, no external devices (nor any single company) has had as much impact on car infotainment as Apple's iPod and iPhone. I would add to that list the iPad, with the potential of its impact on the car and the auto industry nowhere close to being fully explored and realized.
As Newcomb explains, the iPod made CDs obsolete when it debuted a decade ago, and it soon became the default device for carrying music into the car. Then followed the iPhone. Loaded with GPS, Google Maps and other destination information, the iPhone causes consumers to pause about the need to buy a pricey in-car navigation system. Yet, it is given that todays cars come equipped with plugs for the devices. Now comes the relatively new iPad and we have yet to see completely how it will change the game but it certainly is the subject of experimentation, from automotive marketing to car design.
Always clever with its marketing, Korean automaker Hyundai jumped on the frenzied iPad buzz from the beginning by giving away an iPad (left) to consumers who bought the upscale Hyundai Equus. The iPad came loaded with the Equus owners manual. It showed how everything from the adaptive headlights moved to how the seats folded with the touch of the screen in a way no paper manual could. More recently, electric carmaker Tesla showed its upcoming Model S to potential buyers. The car features a modernistic dashboard that looks more like an iPad than a traditional instrument panel. In the styling studios of auto companies and the classrooms of automotive design colleges, much experimentation is ongoing with vehicle design that either imitates Apple products or incorporates devices like iPhones and iPads into the design.
Of course, the launch of any new Apple device is instantly followed by a steady stream of apps, and theres an app for about anything one can imagine related to automotive. A clever ad by General Motors Chevrolet Division stars one of those apps the ability to unlock a vehicle by remote. In the commercial, a young man has locked himself out of the car. He calls his significant other, who is boarding an airplane, to push the remote unlock button on her smart phone which she does repeatedly to toy with him.
Steve Jobs, Apple and the entire consumer electronics industry has become so important to the car business that the Consumer Electronics Show held in Las Vegas every January is on the calendars of many auto industry executives. It has become as important an event as many auto shows. In fact, some years, CES has looked like an auto show, with car companies making major electronics-related announcements at the show or unveiling vehicles there. Earlier this year, Ford CEO Alan Mulally used CES as the stage to unveil the Ford Focus Electric car.
For pure entertainment, automotive enthusiast will always remember that Jobs brought the world the series of Cars movies through Pixar, a computer graphics company he bought from director George Lucas. But beyond the products, executives of numerous automotive companies constantly point to Apple as having the gleaming brand reputation and the rabidly enthusiastic buyer base that they would like to have for their companies. In that regard, no car company has come close.